"When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1)That's one of my favorite verses in the Book of Revelation. Very briefly, the breaking of the seals is about Jesus opening up of the future and bringing in the Kingdom of God. With the seventh seal everything is fulfilled.
We are a busy people, filling the time with things to do; filling the silence with things to say. It's hard to restrain ourselves. If there is a gap in action, noise, or entertainment we want to fill it in. We are uneasy with quietness and silence.
When God has acted and spoken, and brought everything to completion; there is nothing left to say and nothing left to do. It is time for quietness and time for silence. It's a beautiful thing, quietness in the presence of God. It is when we recognize that it is time simply to admire and wonder at what He has done. No speaking. No applauding. No intruding with our words and our responses. Simply seeing and hearing and quietly worshiping.
There are times of quietness and stillness scattered through the Bible. In Genesis 15 God gave His promise to Abraham taking him outside and saying, "look at the heavens and count the stars if you can. So shall your descendants be." And Abraham believed the Lord. In that brief moment of silence there was simply hearing and believing; nothing more. And then, after that brief moment of quiet in the presence of God everything starts in again.
When the people of Israel were at the shore of the Red Sea and filled with fear, what did Moses say? "Do not fear! ... The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent." (Exodus 14:13-14) That experience echoes through the pages of the Old Testament coming to the surface vividly in Psalm 46 with the words, "Be still and know that I am God." The entire Psalm 46 is about quietness in the middle of turmoil.
King David says in another psalm "I do not occupy myself with things too great ... for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul ..." (Psalm 131:1-2)
Jeremiah, in the middle of the book of Lamentations [the middle of the middle chapter is where the references to Jesus are tucked away] says, "It is good that one wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. ... Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; ... let him give his cheek to the one who strikes ..." (Lamentations 3:26-30) Jesus in the wilderness, facing temptation gives His answer from the quietness of faith, "It is written" three times over.
There is a basic quietness to faith, where hearing the Word of God and trusting His promises is enough. And I remember a friend in Southern Illinois, Olinda Fausz. I used to visit her and she told me her favorite stories many times. And Olinda talked about how she loved to come to church almost an hour before services started. She said she liked to spend time in God's House simply being there in the quietness. I still think that is the most beautiful example of quietness I have ever heard and known.
When everything is said, and everything is done, and it is time for us to finish with our frantic doing and our business with filling the time with our words -- there is an eternal Word from God to simply be heard, and treasured deep within -- simply hearing and believing, and nothing more.
Lord Jesus, teach me quietness, that I may hear Your word and Your promises in the simple stillness of faith. so I may learn to wait for Your time and Your guidance; and know that in the quiet times You are with me and I can be at peace. Amen.
Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.